• AP


Barcelona played some of its best soccer in a while to earn a 2-0 win at Juventus on Wednesday in a Champions League match that offered plenty of entertainment even though the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo prevented a highly anticipated duel against Lionel Messi.

Ronaldo was out for the game, more than two weeks after the Juventus forward initially tested positive for the coronavirus. Alvaro Morata, who scored twice against Dynamo last week, again replaced Ronaldo but frustratingly had three goals ruled out for offside.

Messi converted a late penalty for Barcelona after Ousmane Dembele gave the visitors the lead in the 14th minute to send Barcelona on its way to its first victory over Juventus in Turin.

“I believe it was the most complete match since I arrived,” Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman said. “I think the team showed a lot of personality in midfield, it was our best game.

“We had a great game against a great team. I think we showed our best soccer. We created a lot of scoring opportunities. I’m very happy with the play, I’m very happy with the character of the team, a great victory.”

In other matches, Marcus Rashford scored a hat trick as Manchester United beat Leipzig 5-0 at home, while Chelsea brushed aside Krasnodar 4-0 in Russia, giving England’s four clubs a sweep of wins this week without conceding a goal.

A wave of second-half goals also earned wins for Paris Saint-Germain — after losing Neymar early to injury — Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla.

Barcelona took the sole lead in Group G, three points above Juventus. Dynamo Kyiv and Ferencvaros have one point each after drawing 2-2 on Wednesday.

Barcelona has been in turmoil this week after a 3-1 loss at home against Real Madrid in the clasico 3-1 last weekend, while club president Josep Maria Bartomeu and his entire board resigned on Tuesday.

“Today the team showed that it wasn’t affected by yesterday’s news,” Koeman said. “I can’t say it surprised me. President Bartomeu took this decision for the good of the club.”

The scoreline could have been worse for Juventus if the visitors had been more clinical with their chances.

Apart from Ronaldo, Juventus was also missing Giorgio Chiellini, Matthijs de Ligt and Alex Sandro and Bianconeri coach Andrea Pirlo said their absences and the lack of experience in his squad was to blame for the defeat.

“We have young players who still don’t have these type of matches in their heads so they suffer a bit more,” Pirlo said. “They all had a good game but then they were a bit tired because we also didn’t have players to change, and then it’s normal to suffer against Barcelona.

“We have to wait to get players back, because we have some important ones out.”

Barcelona almost took the lead with less than two minutes on the clock as former Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic forced a save from Wojciech Szczęsny before Antoine Griezmann’s follow-up bounced off the left post.

It didn’t take the visitors much longer to break the deadlock. Messi played a great ball over the top to Dembele on the right flank and he cut inside before unleashing a shot which was deflected into the far top corner.

Juventus thought it had leveled instantly but Morata’s effort was ruled out for offside.

Barcelona almost doubled its lead in the 23rd minute when Griezmann played a delightful backheeled flick to release Messi but the Argentina international fired wide of the right post.

Morata had another effort ruled offside and Szczęsny again came to his side’s rescue late in the first half with two saves in quick succession to first deny Messi and then Griezmann.

Morata finally appeared to get his goal 10 minutes into the second half when Juan Cuadrado acrobatically volleyed Federico Chiesa’s cross back into the box and the former Real Madrid forward turned it into the back of the net.

But after a lengthy check by the video assistant referee, and with both teams back in the center of the pitch waiting to kick off, that too was ruled out for offside.

Juventus defender Merih Demiral was sent off with five minutes remaining following a second yellow card and Barcelona sealed the result shortly after when Federico Bernardeschi crashed into the back of Ansu Fati and Messi fired the penalty into the top left corner.

Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich used his team’s trip to his home country to make a rare visit to see a game.

Abramovich, whose British visa was withdrawn in 2018 during diplomatic tensions with Russia, was rewarded with a 4-0 win in Krasnodar.

Chelsea’s players are not used to seeing their owner, nor any fans at games. There were 10,544 spectators in the first paying crowd Chelsea has played for since the coronavirus pandemic was declared in March.

Sevilla, who drew 0-0 at Chelsea last week, also has four points in Group E after beating Rennes 1-0.

Italian forward Moise Kean’s goals lifted Paris Saint-Germain to a 2-0 win at Istanbul Basaksehir after Neymar limped off with a muscle strain.

Manchester United’s Rashford has had a stunning October on and off the field, leading a campaign against child poverty that embarrassed the British government.

Rashford, who scored the winning goal at PSG last week, came off the bench to score a late hat trick and seal United’s 5-0 rout of Leipzig, a semifinalist last season.

Another homegrown young forward, Mason Greenwood, opened the scoring in the first half and Anthony Martial scored a penalty.

United leads Group H with a maximum six points, three ahead of PSG and Leipzig.

Borussia Dortmund’s coveted young forwards Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland both scored late to beat Russian champion Zenit St. Petersburg 2-0.

Neither game in Group F was played with fans in the stands, and Lazio traveled to Belgium with barely enough first-team players due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the club.

Lazio still earned a 1-1 draw at Club Brugge to give both four points, one clear of favored Dortmund with top-seeded Zenit last after two defeats.

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